The United States tallied just shy of 1,000 coronavirus-related daily deaths on Saturday after a four-day streak of four-digit death tolls, the largest such accounting of human loss from the virus since late May.
The country reported 58,951 new infections and 559 additional deaths as of Sunday night, resulting in a seven-day average that was slightly lower than Saturday’s, with a few left to report their totals. The world surpassed 16 million confirmed cases over the weekend and reached at least 641,000 coronavirus-related deaths. The United States accounts for about one-fourth of the reported infections and one-fifth of the death toll.
Despite the recent surge in cases and deaths, White House senior staff members painted a rosy picture of the country rebounding from the crisis.
“I don’t deny that some of these hot-spot states are going to moderate that recovery, but, on the whole, the picture is very positive, and I still think the V-shaped recovery is in place,” White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday, referring to how a quick rebound would look on a bar chart.
Kudlow and other administration officials denied that intraparty conflict was at play as lawmakers rushed to pass legislation before the enhanced jobless aid expires. Hinting at developments, Kudlow said that the federal government would extend a four-month moratorium on evictions that ended Friday, and that $1,200 direct-impact payments will be part of the negotiated stimulus package.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that the White House and GOP lawmakers were “on the same page” and would present a stimulus package Monday, straying from what White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., previously suggested. McConnell on Friday announced that an agreement could take a “few weeks,” potentially leaving millions of Americans in limbo when benefits are cut off.
Meadows also suggested progress Sunday, saying new therapies for treating the coronavirus could be unveiled this week. Speaking on ABC News’s “This Week,” he provided no details on what the therapies might involve or who was developing them. But he maintained that the key to defeating the virus would ultimately come down to “American ingenuity” more than mandates requiring people to wear masks, maintaining social distancing or keeping businesses closed.
But negotiations with Democrats will hinge in part on temporary unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of this week. Republicans aim to reduce the $600 weekly payments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that the Trump administration is effectively trying to take away employees’ option to not go to work if they do not feel safe. On CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” Pelosi said President Donald Trump’s aim to pull unemployment benefits back from people with job options is unsafe.
“I have a new name for him, Mr. Make Matters Worse,” Pelosi told Margaret Brennan. “He has made matters worse from the start. Delay, denial, ‘it’s a hoax,’ it will go away magically,’ ‘it’s a miracle’ and the rest.”
The White House’s coronavirus testing coordinator conceded Sunday that turnaround times for diagnostic testing should improve, promising better times this week.
In an interview Sunday with Tapper on “State of the Union,” Adm. Brett Giroir blamed “large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in our country.”
“I started out by saying that we are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours, and I would be happy with point-of-care testing everywhere,” Giroir said, referring to when sample collection and testing occurs in the same place. “We are not there yet. We are doing everything we can to do that.”
He defended testing capacity, saying “no one is trying to stop testing in this country,” when Tapper asked about Trump’s remarks that he had instructed officials to slow testing out of concern that it would highlight the spread of the virus in the country.
As of Sunday evening, the seven-day averages for new cases hit fresh highs in several states, including Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Nevada and South Carolina set records for their seven-day averages of daily deaths, and Mississippi and North Carolina tied their previous highs.
In Texas, the seven-day average for cases was 8,302 on Saturday as Hurricane Hanna roared ashore Texas coast. Winds, torrential rain and storm surges left a path of destruction in an area already ravaged by coronavirus infections. The seven counties from Corpus Christi south to Brownsville and inland along the border with Mexico, predicted to face Hanna’s strongest winds and heaviest rains, have diagnosed a total of 18,420 active covid-19 cases, many in the past few weeks, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Elsewhere in Texas, bar owners reopened Saturday night, defying a June 26 order by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott to shut down. Fort Worth bar owner and “Freedom Fest” protest organizer Chris Polone said in a video posted on Facebook that out of the about 800 bar owners who participated, not one was penalized by authorities.
The county that Fort Worth is in has reported 24,562 coronavirus cases, 3,367 more since last week.
The surge in cases comes as states wrestle with reopening their economies or imposing greater public health restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In Florida, the secretary of the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Halsey Beshears, signaled that he planned to start talking with bars and breweries about how they can return to business. His announcement came as Florida’s average number of deaths rose for the third straight day.
The state surpassed New York in total confirmed cases as Florida hit 414,511 on Saturday, with its health department reporting 12,180 new infections. Only California, with double the population of the Sunshine State, has more cases than Florida.
As many of the largest school districts have already announced that students won’t immediately return to in-person instruction in the fall, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that the administration does not believe there should be uniform thresholds to meet for schools to reopen.
“Each community is going to have to make the determination about the circumstances for reopening and what steps they take for reopening, but the presumption should be we get our kids back to school,” Azar told CBS News’s Brennan.
But schools that reopen may not be able to stay open if cases surge again in those communities, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden warned.
“The hard part is opening them and keeping them open,” Frieden told Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said a slow testing process or high rate of positive tests in a community should trigger a review of whether schools there should remain in session.
“I think somewhere in 5 to 10%, it’s starting to get iffy,” Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation,” speaking about positivity rates. “Above 10%, I think that’s a threshold where you really want to think carefully about closing the school districts, because that is a sign that there is an epidemic underway inside that community.”
Outside the United States, North Korea declared a “maximum” national emergency and locked down the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea after what could be the North’s first coronavirus case, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday. North Korea alleged that the patient illegally crossed the border from South Korea last week and said virus screening results are “uncertain.”
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The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport contributed to this report.
Video: http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/washington-post-live/anthony-fauci-details-the-covid-19-vaccine-timeline/2020/07/24/096cc83b-8e3a-4108-bde5-74fd263bbffc_video.html(REF:mathewp/The Washington Post)
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